I can find these intros somewhat embarrassing, as it is often hard to ask a person to be interviewed without revealing yourself to be low-key obsessive. I can at times see these figures like celebrities. In fact, they are more of a celebrity to me than many A-listers, as they make much more of an impact on my life. I am not saying my knees wouldn't knock together to introduce Mr Hanks or Leo, but they have no hand in my life or outlook. Whereas the subject of this Tete a Tat has. The designs of Max Rollitt have inspired me hugely; every time one of his projects is printed on the pages of a magazine, I find it a real thrill. They have his signature, but each has their own charm and unique quality that leave themselves imprinted in my mind. This is one of the few things that is lucky about having a lousy memory for anything other than pictures; my mind is a Filofax of rooms, and his are taking up a huge amount of the R section.
Max grew up on the shop floor. His mother took over a shop when he was seven, selling fabrics and textiles to the ladies of Winchester. Max would help on the shop floor, moving furniture and attending to the clientele. A healthy bit of child labour. When he was older, he left to study Comparative Religion, but realising it was not for him, he dropped out and trained as a French polisher and then a cabinet maker. Sadly in the 80's making furniture was not where the money was, and even if it had been, it would have been in Italy. This led him into furniture restoration, which seems like a very happy accident, as it allowed him to work with his hands whilst also learning about furniture and design through the ages.
At 28, his mother suggested that he take over the shop, which he eagerly accepted. Although lucky enough to inherit many of her clients, he set his sights on interior designers. He travelled to many a show, meeting designers and, more importantly, selling to them. He didn't do too badly; he sold to Roger Jones of Colefax & Fowler, Michael Smith and Axel Vervoord, so really he did exceptionally well. Not only was he killing it on the dealing front, but he was also asked by one of his clients whether he would consider decorating their house. Asking them 'What sort of thing would you want?', the reply was: 'Like your house!', and with that the dealer became a dealer/decorator. His projects have been seen all over the world, with legions of fans like myself excited and inspired by his designs, the use of colours and the clear passion for antiques.
I have long wanted to have Max do Tete a Tat so I was thrilled when he accepted the invitation.
Best Moment In Your Career So Far?
The moment I walked into our Coastal Villa project after it had been fully completed was the first time I’d seen it in its entirety. I was bowled over by how the colours, antiques, textiles and textures all worked together so beautifully alongside my client’s wonderful art. It was the culmination of a long project working closely with a great client and was everything we’d hoped to achieve.
What Is Your Favourite Day Of The Week?
Sundays, which for me means family, food, being outdoors and having a day off!
La Fourchette in Avignon. I go to the antique fairs in Southern France every two months each year (barring Covid) and it’s a three-day sprint. I always make a point of having lunch at La Fourchette on the second day of the trip. The food is beautiful, I have the company of some my favourite colleagues and it has become a place I look forward to returning to each year.
Any Good Advice? Who Gave It To You?
‘Drive for show, putt for dough’ – an accountant told me this as a maxim to run a business by. It basically means that although turnover is important, more important is the profit.
The garden at our cottage in Cornwall. I built a corrugated iron shelter at the top of the garden with a view of the creek below which always makes me happy.
Top Destination In The UK?
The Isle of Barra – basically coming in to the harbour on the ferry is a view that hasn’t changed since Whiskey Galore! was made there in the 1940s.
What would your autobiography be called?
The Curious Cabinet Maker
Do you believe in ghosts?
Maybe I don’t believe that we each have an individual spirit, but I do think that when we die our energy rejoins the universe.
The Master and Marguerita by Mikhail Bulgakov or, perhaps more, the Aubrey-Maturin series of books written by Patrick O’Brien.
Great film suggestion?
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) – Alec Guinness is in top form and plays a multitude of roles, the plot and script are brilliant. It’s a fantastic film, a family favourite and I love everything about it including Joan Greenwood’s wonderful voice!
If you could be a fly on the wall, where would you land?
In Van Eyck’s studios when he was painting the angel for the Ghent altarpiece.
A song that can always make your foot tap?
Bang a Gong – by T Rex